Posted: Wednesday May 4, 2005 4:15PM; Updated: Wednesday May 4, 2005 5:54PM
4. Is the NFL ready to pick a stadium site in Los Angeles?
Don Banks will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
If this is May, the NFL's thoughts must be turning to L.A. Every year about this time, the league stops and focuses on the decade-long saga of replacing the departed Rams and Raiders. Finally, there might be some decisions close at hand.
At its owners' meeting in three weeks in Washington, the NFL is expected to give its owners a full presentation of the merits and flaws of the four competing stadium sites. Potentially two or even three of the sites could be eliminated or drop out of the running at the meeting, leaving perhaps just one remaining survivor.
From all indications, a renovated L.A. Coliseum remains the most viable option, followed by Anaheim, the Rose Bowl and the Carson site. The league still isn't excited about returning to the Coliseum even if it gets a major makeover, but it's the location that has the fewest possible hurdles to clear.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is said to believe that 2008 is too ambitious a timetable for the league to shoot for in its return to Los Angeles. It's looking more like 2010 will be the real date, with the NFL determined to be patient and get the L.A. situation right this time. The league wants to be deliberate in everything about the process, including, of course, whether to place an expansion franchise or a relocated team in Southern California.
If it does go for the relocation option, the NFL doesn't want that team owned by someone who had little success in their previous market and has the imprint of failure. So if it is the Saints, Chargers, Colts, Vikings or even the Raiders who move to L.A. -- and that's thought to be the order of likelihood -- look for the league to orchestrate the sale of the team to the buyer of its choosing before the relocation takes place.
Complicating matters in the L.A. situation is that the NFL's new TV contract has been estimated to add another $150 million in value to every league franchise. So the cost of getting a team back into the L.A. market just went up, and that could add another hurdle or two in what already has been a painstakingly slow process.
5. Is Reggie Fowler's bid to buy the Vikings headed for NFL approval?
It doesn't look that way. At least not in its current structure. There continues to be speculation that the Arizona entrepreneur -- who would become the NFL's first black majority team owner -- will swap places with one of his group's limited partners, New Jersey real estate developer Zygmunt Wilf. Things in Minnesota have progressed so far that Wilf recently let it be known that he's not in favor of a $1.6 billion stadium development concept in the Twin Cities suburb of Blaine, casting the entire new stadium project into doubt.
Does that sound like Fowler is preparing to take over as the team's lead owner to you?
With Fowler still trying to sell one of his companies and raise the cash to hit the 30 percent managing general partner threshold inherent in his $625 million bid to buy the team, Wilf appears to be in the driver's seat of a reconfigured prospective ownership group. Fowler is expected to remain as a limited partner in the group.
As one team observer told me two weeks ago at the NFL Draft: "Fowler doesn't have the clout to pull this off. It's not going to fly.''
League owners still are expecting to vote on Fowler's bid at the May owners' meeting, but if a decision is postponed or delayed in any way, the clock will be ticking. Fowler's exclusive 120-day window to purchase the Vikings from current owner Red McCombs closes by June 13.
McCombs said recently he has two backup buyers in place should the league not approve the bid by Fowler and/or Wilf, with one of them being Glen Taylor, owner of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves. The identity of the other backup bidder has not surfaced.